There are a number of clauses in this resolution and if it is dealt with now I think it should be taken in the same way as the resolution yesterday, namely, by moving a First Reading and then going into Committee on the clauses.
COMPULSORY ATTENDANCE IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS.
If this resolution with all its clauses were carried, what would be the position in regard to the departments concerned. I ask your ruling as to whether this motion does not really require notice?
It merely provides for an expression of opinion by the Dáil that a certain piece of legislation ought to be, at the earliest possible moment, amended. This motion does not legislate and has no legislative force or effect. It registers the opinion of the Dáil on a particular matter, and there is nothing in it that would interfere with the administration of the present Acts, which would require further legislation. Deputy O'Connell will move that this resolution be read the first time.
I would like to know if I have the leave of the Dáil to move it in the way you suggest?
I beg to move:—
"That inasmuch as the attendance of children at school has of late been notoriously irregular, and as the present compulsory attendance law has proved to be inadequate to deal with the situation thus created, it is the desire of this Dáil that the Compulsory Attendance Clauses of the Irish Education Act, 1892, should, at the earliest available opportunity, be amended, so as to provide, among other things:—
(a) That the Act shall apply to the whole area within the jurisdiction of the Free State.
(b) That parents or guardians should be required to cause their children between the ages of six and fourteen years to attend a National or other efficient school on every day in which the school is in operation, except in case of illness or other reasonable cause, or where it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Ministry of Education that the child is receiving instruction in some other manner.
(c) That no child who is under the age of fourteen years shall be employed for hire or shall be allowed to engage in street trading.
(d) That the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Civic Guards shall perform all the duties of School Attendance Officers.
(e) That the distance which would excuse non-attendance be raised to three miles in the case of children of 10 years and over, and that distance be measured by nearest public path as well as by nearest road.
(f) That the procedure of "Attendance Order" shall be abolished; defaulting parents to be prosecuted after due warning.
(g) That the fines inflicted for noncompliance with the provisions of this Act be increased from forty shillings to five pounds in the case of the employer, and from five shillings to forty shillings in the case of parents or guardians.
(h) That power be given to the Court to commit to Industrial or Reformatory Schools refractory pupils who are out of their parents' or guardians' control, and in whose cases fines had been inflicted on three separate occasions.
(i) That an annual census be made by the School Attendance Committee of the children within its area who are within the prescribed limits of age."
I am grateful to you for having made the suggestion and to the Dáil for having adopted it, because I can appreciate while it is possible that there is general agreement as to the subject of the motion, there might be difference of opinion regarding the detailed clauses. I believe that in moving a question of this kind we should remember that this is one of the questions— there are few such perhaps in Ireland— but this is certainly one of them that is not regarded and which I hope will not be regarded as a party matter. Education is above party and beyond party, and I believe the position is, and I hope it will long remain so, that all of us, no matter what party we belong to are anxious to do what we consider best in the interests of the State, and in the interests of our country.
Now, I propose in this resolution to show that, as the resolution states, the attendance at school has lately been notoriously irregular. And I need not spend any time in impressing on the members of this Dáil that if effective work is to be done in our schools a regular attendance of the pupils is absolutely necessary, I am pleased to say that at the present time very great efforts indeed are being made by the new educational authorities to lay the foundations of what we all hope to see in the near future—a Gaelic State. They have made regulations for the introduction of the teaching of the Irish language into the schools. They have made regulations by which teachers are being prepared to carry out that work, and the teachers and the educational authorities are cooperating, as far as possible, in carrying on this work. But no matter how good a programme you may have, or how suitable it may be, no matter how good the intention of the education authorities may be, or how enthusiastic the teachers may be, their efforts will be quite useless unless the children are there to be taught. Now, there is no shadow of a doubt that the attendance at schools has lately been irregular. Statistics are there to prove it, and I hope to give you some figures showing that. I have here the latest available reports of the English Board of Education, and the figures showing the percentage of attendance. The percentages of attendances are given for four successive years. They are 89 per cent and the last year is 90 per cent. In Scotland the figures are 86 per cent. I understand that in such countries as Japan, the United States, Germany and one or two other countries, the percentage of attendance is always something in the nineties. In this country, according to the latest figures which are available, the percentage of attendance at our National schools is 68.9 per cent. That is a very considerable difference. Now I would like to put this thing in another way. It is estimated—I think it is on the whole a fair estimate—that roughly about 19 or 20 per cent. of the population of the country would be of school-going age, and if we take that for the whole country, because we have not the figures except for the whole country, and any figures that I am giving apply to the whole country, and that does not affect my argument inasmuch as the conditions are the same North and South—practically so; that would mean that, roughly speaking, there are 900,000 children of school-going age in the country. Statistics show that 700,000 are on the rolls of the National schools. And, taking into account the other schools, such as the Christian Brothers' schools, and making due allowance for those attending the primary departments of secondary schools, that would be, roughly, another 30,000. That means that 730,000 of the 900,000 children are on the rolls, are attending some particular schools. Now the figures of attendance are that, out of 700,000, 500,000 are at school on any particular day throughout the year. The percentage would be higher in the case of the other schools, but allowing, say, 75 or 80 per cent. of attendance in the other cases, it would mean that 23,000 of these would be there. That shows that we have 730,000 children attending schools on the rolls, but the average daily attendance would be 523,000, and if we add to these the number of children who are not on the rolls of any school and which, from the figures I have given, would be 170,000, we find that you have this remarkable position—that 277,000 children are at home from school who should be in school. These children are at home every day in the year. That is what it means. Now, attention has been called to this position from time to time during the last three or four or five years especially, and it is rather a remarkable thing that the public generally do not seem to have attached the importance that they should to this phase of the life of our country. The Commissioners of National Education, who are specially concerned with administration of education, deal with this matter during the last two or three years or in the last two or three Reports. In the Reports for 1917-18 they write as follows:—
"Early in 1918 we had again under consideration the question of amending the Compulsory Attendance Clauses of the Irish Education Act, 1892, and we have made strong representations to the Irish Government on the necessity of stringent alterations in the Act which are urgently required if a long-needed improvement in the attendance is to be secured."
In the year 1918 they again referred to the matter in this way:—
"As stated in our last Annual Report, we made representations to the Irish Government in 1918 with a view to securing certain amendments in the statutes relating to school attendance, and our proposals have been embodied in the Education (Ireland) Bill recently presented to Parliament. Until legislation on the lines suggested by us is enacted there is little probability of any substantial increase in the regularity of attendance at the national schools. How great is the need for improvement will be seen from the fact that while there are about 700,000 pupils enrolled in the schools only about 500,000 of these are in average daily attendance, so that there are upwards of 200,000 children absent from school every day of the year. Returns of the Scottish Education Department show that while there were in the year ended 30th April, 1919, 877,016 pupils enrolled in Scottish State-aided schools, 755, 732, or 86.2 per cent., were in average daily attendance. In no school district in Scotland is the percentage of attendance less than 82.9, which is the figure for the Orkney Islands. It appears then that although the population of Scotland is not much in excess of that of Ireland, there are almost half as many more children in attendance at the schools of the former country."
And in their last available report they speak again. They say that "The law of Compulsory School Attendance to which we have so frequently referred in our recent reports still remains unamended, and we anticipate little improvements until this is done."
Two or three years ago a very representative committee was set up to survey the whole field of education so far as it related to primary education It was presided over by Lord Killanin, who was a Commissioner of National Education, and amongst its members were Most Rev. Dr. O'Donnell, Bishop of Raphoe; Dean Macken of Tuam and now of Claremorris; representatives of the teaching profession, and some representative laymen also. That committee considered this question of attendance, and made recommendations which I may say, and as I hope to point out later on, are embodied in this resolution which I propose. Last year a representative committee was appointed under the auspices of Dáil Eireann to prepare or draft a National programme. The Committee consisted of representatives of Aireacht an Oideachais of the General Council of County Councils, the Gaelic League, the National Labour Executive, Secondary Teachers' Association, and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation. Having drafted and framed their programme they decided to call attention to the position of school attendance, and this is the recommendation which this National Committee gave in its report: "The Conference desire to direct special attention to the question of school attendance. A child who attends school irregularly, not only fails to make progress himself; he acts as a clog on the class as a whole, and thus hampers the progress of his classmates. No matter how suitable the programme or how efficient or enthusiastic the teacher the instruction cannot be effective unless the pupils attend regularly. The statistics with regard to school attendance in Ireland disclose a lamentable and indeed discreditable condition of affairs." It goes on to quote the statistics which I have given you and which I do not wish to repeat. It says again, "The average leaving age is 11 years. The Conference strongly recommends that all children between the ages of 5 and 14 should attend school daily; it further recommends that as soon as practicable legislation should be introduced to remedy the present deplorable state of affairs." The last body that had this question under consideration was the Ard Fheis of the Gaelic League, which met last week and passed a resolution calling special attention to the position of school attendance, and asking that a law should be enacted at an early date to meet a situation that is created by this deplorably irregular attendance. Now I think I have said sufficient to prove that the attendance is undoubtedly irregular. I think it is only fair to say in this connection, that very great credit is due to the clergy in the majority of cases, who did and are doing their best to see that the children do attend school regularly. That applies to the majority of them and I think it is only right that it should be stated. If we want to remedy this state of affairs, what has been found necessary to deal with it in other countries—in all progressive countries—must be adopted in this country, and that is a proper and effective scheme of compulsory attendance. So great is the importance which many of the newly established republics in Europe attach to this question of attendance that they have inserted it in their Constitution as a fundamental principle, that education should be compulsory. Some of us hoped that it would be inserted in our Constitution, but we did not succeed in getting it. However, it can be dealt with by legislation, and it is to express the desire of this Dáil that such legislation should be introduced as soon as possible that I propose this resolution. The present compulsory law, such as it is, has proved a failure. The very facts I have stated show that it is a failure, and from the history of it it could be hardly anything else. It was introduced thirty years ago at a time when the general view of the people with regard to the usefulness of education on the whole, and especially with regard to the rights of the child, and the employment and exploitation of child labour, were very different from that they are now Things have moved forward a good deal in the last thirty years, but even then the Act met with a very considerable amount of opposition in certain quarters in Ireland, because of the suspicion which attached, and possibly very rightly attached, to all attempts made by a foreign Government to introduce educational reform or measures of educational reform into this country. The result of that opposition was that the Act, such as it was when introduced, was left almost worthless, there were so many loopholes in it, so many ways of getting out of it, that it was found to be practically useless for the purpose for which it was intended. In face of what I have said I think the only way to meet the situation is to have the law that exists at present with regard to school attendance amended. The Killanin Committee that I spoke of a moment ago recommended the amendment of this Act, and I notice that a Committee which some time ago was appointed to survey the educational position in the Northern area makes practically the same recommendations as were made by the Killanin Committee showing that in some things, at any rate, North and South are in agreement. About this time last year the then Minister for Education in Dáil Eireann had this matter under consideration and he was considering whether or not a Decree of the Dáil could be secured to put this recommendation of the Committee into operation. Well, the Treaty came then, and the Treaty debates, and there was no opportunity to do so up to this. This is the first opportunity we have had and I trust that the Dáil will take advantage of this opportunity to pass this resolution and so send it with a strong recommendation to the Government to frame legislation along these lines on the first available occasion. I now formally propose that the principle of the resolution be adopted. It does not bind Deputies, as An Ceann Comhairle has explained, to agree with all the details of these clauses. I formally move it and I trust the Dáil will adopt the principle which is embodied in the resolution.
I beg formally to second the resolution.
Ba mhaith liom beagán a rádh i dtaobh an thairisgint seo ó Thomás O Conaill. Táim go dían láidir ar thaobh an cuid is mó de'n adhbhar rúin seo. Ní dóigh liom go raibh aon gádh in aon chor é a thabhairt os cómhair na Dála. Óir, mar a deirtear "it is only beating in an open door." Bhí sé im'aigne suas le sé mí o shoin Bille d'en saghas só a thabhairt os cómhair na Dála chomh luath agus a bhéadh an caoi agam.
This resolution has absolutely my entire sympathy. I quite realise the necessity for amending the Compulsory Education Act as it stands. As a matter of fact this question was before the Ministry from its very start—from the day the Provisional Government was formed. I had several communications —amongst others, from Mr. O'Connell himself—from people in Cork and from others with regard to it. As a matter of fact, the Cork people led the way with regard to this Act. Under the old Court system the Committee there took it on themselves to amend this Act for the City of Cork. And with striking effects. The average attendance was raised from something about 70 per cent. to close on 90—or near it—in a very short time. A question, therefore, arises right away. There is the question of providing accommodation for children who are not now attending school. Of course, I quite agree that accommodation must be provided. Still, it is one of the things you have to consider, and will have to be prepared for before you actually make this law. There are a few items down along that will, I am sure, be a bit contentious, and (c) in particular. Mr. O'Connell also referred particularly to the clause "that no child who is under the age of 14 years shall be employed for hire, or shall be allowed to engage in street trading." I think myself that if you had ideal conditions that would be very good, but at the moment I am afraid you would be hitting the very poorest if you took it on your self to enforce anything like that without very careful consideration and discussion. I also agree in principle—I do not know how it is going to work out —with (d), "that the work of enforcing school attendance should be a matter for the police." They would be far more effective than the persons who were appointed by public bodies heretofore, who were very easily got at. These persons were dependent, perhaps, for the retention of their positions on the representative in the Corporation or Rural District Council, who represented the district locally. When the parent was brought up he got at his representative and the representative got at the School Attendance Officer. That was how it worked out in practice. That could be avoided, I think, by the principle of getting the police to enforce the school attendance order. With (f) everybody who knows anything at all about the Act will be in entire agreement. What was called the Compulsory Order has made a joke of the whole Compulsory Education Act. A person was brought up, and there was no penalty, no matter how long the child was away from school, until there was, first of all, an order for the parent to send his child to school. If he did not obey that Order a small fine might be imposed, and once that fine was inflicted there was a period of six months again before the child could be brought up, so that really the Compulsory Attendance Education Act itself was a joke. So far as the Ministry is concerned I think I know their feelings, and I think it is the intention of the Government to remedy that at the earliest possible date.
Deputy O'Connell in moving the resolution has pointed out that its approval by the Dáil does not commit one to any of its details, and, personally, I am glad of that, but I would take this opportunity to discuss that detail which the Minister for Education has referred to. Paragraph (d) says: “that the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Civic Guards shall perform all the duties of School Attendance Officers.” Now, I would like to be satisfied before that be formally adopted, that the idea of the civilian committee, with its implied civilian officer had definitely failed, and I feel that for a variety of reasons. For one thing it is gratifying that the bulk of the adult population of the country has shown by its welcome to the Civic Guard that it realises the fundamental change that has taken place in the administration of the country. Whether the child-mind will so readily grasp it or not is another matter, and it might be a bad thing to put police on that particular work, because of the traditional attitude of the people to the police. That attitude, as I say, has changed in the case of the more sensible of the adult population, but it may not yet have changed to the same extent with the children, and the change is not likely to be helped or expedited if you put police on this work, which, human nature being what it is, will be unpopular with the children. That is something to consider—first of all, whether it is going to help the object, whether it is going to help the school attendance, to use the uniformed officials of the Government; secondly, whether it is wise to use them in work that will throw the child-mind to a greater or lesser extent in antagonism to them. The boy who prides himself in youth on his dexterity in evading the policeman in the matter of mitching from school, as it is called, may turn out a very clever——
Very clever and dangerous criminal in his more advanced years. Certainly the earlier impressions that his mind forms, and the attitude that he takes up to the officers of the law in his youth, may colour his whole outlook on life and may affect his career when he grows up. After all, this question of school attendance is a vital question to the community, and it is a thing which, if the community realises it, should be dealt with almost spontaneously, almost without State help, in self-defence, so to speak, and to prevent the results which follow from any great breach. On that matter of school attendance, it is not too much to ask that a local Committee of each parish or school area would undertake it, and pay a yearly sum to an officer to carry out the duties of school attendance officer, and if the officer has failed in the past and has not carried out his duty more fully the local committee rather than the officer is, generally speaking, at fault, because generally when there is negligence or incompetence on the part of an employee the fault may lie, and in most cases it does lie, more at the head than with the paid servant. If the school attendance officers through the country have neglected their work it is because the attitude of the Committee encouraged them in the belief that they could neglect their work with immunity. I would hesitate to accept the view that it is wise or right to employ the uniformed officers of the Government on that particular matter. I do not know whether Deputy O'Connell will consider that I had made a case against it or not, but I would ask him to weigh well the possible consequences to the community and to society by allowing the youth of the country to form impressions hostile to the police and hostile to what the police stand for, that may recoil seriously later on.
The motion is that the Dáil reads this resolution a first time and goes into Committee, and that an opportunity would be given for discussing every one of its clauses. If it is intended to agree to this motion as put now the first opportunity for debate will be afforded later on, unless a speaker desires actually to move against this resolution.
I do not want it even to be implied that I, as Minister responsible for the Police, approved of that particular clause to which I have referred.
Shall we take the motion as agreed?
Do you mean to take them now?
Take them now is what the resolution states. There could be an amendment to that to take later on if it is considered more advisable, but if it is agreed that we should approve of the principle, then we may as well pass that, and possibly then we could take up the debate.
That is a matter which depends largely on having the right information, and would it not be better to get that information first before this matter and each clause is discussed in detail. If we pass this arrangement now I take it we would immediately proceed to discuss the clauses. Is that so?
Yes. That is the exact wording of it.
I think there is a desire in the minds of several Deputies that even if we pass the principle underlying the idea that we might postpone further discussion on it. If that is agreed to I would certainly fall in with it.
I take it that Deputy Cole is moving an amendment.
I am trying to get it agreed to, but if it will not be agreed to I will move it as an amendment.
I wish to say a word in support of what is put forward, the principle of which probably every member accepts, that education shall be compulsory. Everybody who knows anything about education has been interested in this question for a long time. I think it should not be discussed now in detail, for not alone shall we have to go over the same ground again when the Bill comes forward, and this is of some little importance, but, apart from that, it is difficult to express an opinion about these isolated clauses, unless you have the Bill before you. I think we should be not merely wasting time but perhaps expressing opinions which we should like to modify when we see the actual Bill. If you go into the clauses now there will be considerable discussion about them, because on several of them people may not agree. I agree, for instance, with the Minister for Home Affairs that certain duties should not be done by the Civic Guard or the Police, but by the School Attendance Committee. I give that point merely in reference to one clause, merely as an instance.
It is rather a surprise to hear that there is universal agreement as to the principle of compulsory education. When only a few weeks ago Deputy O'Connell and I had the audacity to defend compulsory education we were voted down and not only that, but a leading article in one of the leading newspapers was devoted to us to prove what a poor conception of liberty we entertained, how unenlightened we were as to the claims of the individual citizen to be allowed to go his own way uninterfered with by perverse legislators. The Minister for Education, who unfortunately is absent, is absolutely opposed to compulsory education. He claims for the parent the right to do with his child what seems best to himself, and if he has money enough for the purpose, to provide education for his child so that he shall be kept away from the contaminating social influences which the ordinary State school or the Christian Brothers' school might subject him to. I think that if the Minister for Education was here he would admit that what I am quoting is an expression of his own views on this matter. It may be that these arguments were used against introducing the principle of compulsory Education into the Constitution. If so the argument should have been expressed as an ad hoc argument. I quite recognise that the very large vote that was against our proposal was cast, not against compulsory education as a principle, but against the way in which the resolution was worded, which seemed as if we were demanding attendance at the State School for every child in the country. I know that that is so. At the same time, at any rate, I feel as Heaven is reputed to feel; there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repents than for ninety-nine just men. It is quite gratifying to know now that our legislation is in favour of securing an educated community in the future. There are a great number of things in this resolution which are intended to be a guide to whoever is framing the Educational Code. There is one which deals with what has always been regarded as a physical difficulty in the way of introducing Compulsory Education in Ireland, i.e., the remoteness in many districts of the school from the home. Some children have to go a long, long distance, sometimes barefooted and barelegged, badly clothed in very inclement weather, and I am quite sure that the prevalence of tuberculosis in the country is largely due to the fact that attendance has to be made in badly ventilated, badly heated schools, by children who arrive there imperfectly clad, and sometimes absolutely wet through, and there is no facility for drying their clothes or getting them the protection which their tender years require under those unhappy physical conditions. Now many, many years ago I had an opportunity of meeting a great number of Clerical Managers of schools and I proposed to them a plan which was afterwards adopted in Alberta, and Saskatchewan, in Canada, and which operated very effectively. That was to provide not, as some people might expect, such a provision as a larger number of schools, but, on the contrary, to reduce the number of small schools, replace them by large, central and well-equipped schools, and send out each day a motor 'bus, or something of the kind, to collect the children from outlying districts and deliver them, dry shod and happy, in the schools without physical fatigue; if necessary even to provide them with breakfast before the school day began, so that the teacher should have the most receptive material for his work. That has been objected to on the ground of expense. It is cheaper to pay dispensary doctors and to keep up workhouses and hospitals and collect statistics of tuberculosis and the average death-rate for children. That is cheaper and a more congenial way of expending public funds than to secure reforms that other countries can see the advantage of. I need not dwell on the educational advantage there would be in having one great school, properly manned and properly equipped, instead of a large number of schools with irregular attendance and indifferent teaching. We are really working on a most uneconomical basis and the only thing I dislike, or at least the main thing that I dislike in this resolution, is that it should appear that Deputy O'Connell is complacently disposed towards the existing state of affairs. I should expect him to be more of an iconoclast and to call upon you to replace practically everything, because there is very little in the machinery of primary education working heretofore that has not been inherently bad. As regards Clause (c), “That parents or guardians should be required to cause their children between the ages of six and fourteen years to attend a National School,” I wonder are the Deputies aware that if they pass a regulation like this they must be prepared to face an angry multitude of teachers, for not all the teachers are so enlightened as their representative in this Dáil. A little while ago, when I was a member of the National Board, it was suggested that a great amount of public funds could be saved by insisting on the withdrawal of children under the age of five or six years, because the removal of such children from the schools would remove also from the employment of the Board a large number of teachers. Some Deputies, possibly, are not aware that a continuance of the teacher in his employment depends upon the average attendance in his school, so if you remove children up to the age of five or six years from certain schools in some districts you bring down the average permanently and the teacher must go. Therefore I ask you, when you give your consent to this proposal, which is educationally sound, that you should be prepared to face the consequences of it and see that the teachers are not penalised. As regards the question of the employment of children, I have been provided with the Bye-laws——.
I do not like interrupting Deputy Magennis, but at the same time he is travelling over practically the whole ground that this proposal was made to repair, and I think we should have some understanding as to whether we are going into a general debate or are going to adopt the suggestion put forward.
I was following Deputy Lynch, who went over the whole case unreproved by any of those behind him on those Benches.
The question arises whether we go into this matter in Committee.
Are there not two principles involved in the resolution? First, the idea underlying the resolution is that legislation should be introduced at a very early date. If that were put before the Dáil it seems to me there would be a unanimous feeling with regard to it. Secondly, there is the principle directing that that legislation should provide for compulsory attendance. That is an entirely different question. I would suggest to Deputy O'Connell that having made his representation to the Ministry as to what his ideas are on the question of compulsory attendance, he should postpone discussion on the clauses to a future date.
The point at present is whether we pass this resolution, which does not commit you to anything at all, and take up the Committee stage now, later on, or at all.
If we pass it now and allow the matter to go into Committee, are we pledged in any way towards approving of it or any section of it?
You are not pledged towards anything from clause (a) to clause (i).
There are two clauses that I would take strong objection to. One is (d), which says that D.M.P. and Civic Guards shall perform the duties of School Attendance Officers. The other is (h), which gives the Court the power to commit pupils, for non-attendance, to a reformatory. The Recorder is a man who is very keen and waits a long time and considers very carefully every point in favour of a child before he will send that child to a reformatory. I have two cases in hands under the Recorder, for which I have gone bail.
My object in putting in these definite clauses is this: These are matters that to the members of the Dáil are rather technical. Deputies may not be acquainted with them, and some have confessed they are not. I had hoped by a discussion at this stage—it should not be more than a discussion, for I quite recognise it does not mean legislation— it would serve a useful purpose, and would expedite matters very considerably when the Bill would come to be proposed. I had another object in view. I thought it rather necessary, in view of some of the things to which Deputy Professor Magennis has alluded, that I should put down my views so as to show that they were not quite so revolutionary as some parties were anxious to make out. I recognise there are some of these clauses on which there would be diversity of opinion. I am quite certain on some of them there would be diversity of opinion, even among my own colleagues on these benches, and even perhaps among members of my own organisation. I would like to say all of the clauses, with the exception of (d), are practically in substance recommendations of Commissions which have considered this particular Act, and this question of compulsory attendance. It is usual, of course, when we want to amend any Act or introduce new legislation, to set up a Commission. There will be no need for a Commission for this particular item. There may be need for a Commission on the general question. For this item we have already got recommendations from Commissions. With the exception of (d), there is nothing new. If it will meet with the approval of the Dáil I will be prepared to propose the resolution as it stands, down to the word “amended” in the preamble. That contains the principle and expresses the desire of the Dáil that the Act should be amended at the earliest opportunity. I would like to point out that these clauses are only some of the things I would like to see in the Act. These are the things which are most urgent, and which, in view of the reports to the Commissions to which I have referred, would be likely to meet with the greatest measure of agreement. I would like to say a word or two as to why I considered it necessary or advisable to put down clause (d). If the only effect-of it was to secure the two opinions which we have got from the Ministerial Bench, one in favour and the other against, I think it has served a useful purpose. It is quite possible if members spoke from these Benches we would also have a diversity of opinion on clause (d). Personally, I believe very good arguments could be advanced in favour of it, because one of the reasons why the Compulsory Attendance Act was not universally adopted was on the score of expense. I do not think it would be too much to expect that, in rural districts especially, the Civic Guard would in each station set aside one or two officers to deal with this particular legislation, and to see that the law in this case was enforced. After all, we are not sending the Civic Guard out to be popular with the people. They have to maintain the law. If their object was to be popular of course they would get orders not to enforce any laws, but perhaps to organise dances, parties and concerts. They would be quite popular if they confined their duties to that. They are sent out, and are well paid by the State, to see that the laws of the State are carried out and maintained. I think the argument put up by the Minister for Home Affairs that the children would form a certain opinion with regard to the police, that it might not be advisable for them to get, could equally be used with regard to the schoolmaster.
On a point of personal explanation, I did not suggest that they should not be employed because it was an unpopular task. I suggested it was inadvisable to use them on that particular task before children had come to an age when they could reason out things, because it would throw the child mind into antagonism with the police, and that antagonism might survive at a later age.
The mind of the school-going child is very antagonistic to the schoolmaster sometimes, but I do not think that survives.
Even Deputies object to schoolmasters.
I do not think that it will be so in this case. That will be one of the matters on which there will be divided opinions, possibly. I am glad to have the opportunity of raising the matter and pointing to it as a possible way in which to administer the School Attendance Act. With permission, I shall withdraw my present motion. I have reason to hope from what Deputy Lynch said on behalf of the Minister for Education that this matter will be dealt with in the form of a Bill at the earliest possible opportunity. That being so, I shall not insist that this second portion of my resolution should be gone on with at a later stage. Withdrawing the resolution I have proposed, I shall now move:—
"That inasmuch as the attendance of children at school has of late been notoriously irregular, and as the present compulsory attendance law has proved to be inadequate to deal with the situation thus created, it is the desire of this Dáil that the Compulsory Attendance Clauses of the Irish Education Act, 1892, should, at the earliest available opportunity, be amended."
I second that.